Lord, we cannot lift up our hearts today. The hot breath of chaos draws tears from our eyes. We crouch in silent playgrounds trembling as little ghosts tumble by in wakes of leaves. We stare hollow-eyed as we enumerate the paths of could have lead to anywhere but here. We press against the door, hide in the closet, call to you, but evil seeks us out and we cannot lift up our hearts because we are placing them in a score of tiny shrouds at your feet.
In this time of trial I ask not for the emptied skull of my enemy, your intercession in flame and retribution, the cessation of bloody palms, or a salve for all the skin-stripped and salted breathless held souls of America. I do not ask for the return of a Savior whose death for our sins seems a half measure compared to the grinning demons our lost boys become. I do not ask for hope; I ask for amnesty. You say we stole the knowledge of good & evil — let us return it. If not, finish us off for good before we do it ourselves, for evil.
there are many holes too wide and deep to be filled by eyes they are stepped around gingerly of heels placed with pains taking care a blind dance of fissured eyes averted of shaking hands circumscribing the void piecemeal at this pit of botched communiqué silent static and dead children no one looks up while lead keeps falling from the sky.
Some tragedies are beyond my scope of empathy. Some rationales exceed my capacity to set aside love. If I can’t write about I try to write around, to show the shape of what I can’t describe. This poem could apply to any gun massacre, but today it is for Newtown, CT.
Three named clothespins play daily hopscotch on three sheets of construction paper. The dog is on red. We caught her on the couch. My son (on green) is the arbiter of her color and mine. I choose his, but he moves the pins. I should probably be on yellow every day. I’m lucky he’s in charge.
It derived from the blown and cratered gristle of Sinai, oral lore codified by relentless centuries of infant skin scraps, torn hair, and bloody stones yet, now, once, we upon a time saw a singular sheep, fresh sheared, in-penned, dulled by childish pats, ever beshepherded. once seen, but not since. and, told we are sheep for shepherds, sinly conscience obstinate, abstinent, stolen from Eden, so its use must be wrong, right from preying judas goats. O my God, to be a farmer like Cain, the sacrifice accepted as rot rather than holocaust, a season, then renewal, time more your style. O my God, I know you through my salt crusted forehead and dirty fingers, I know you through scum and dung and desperation. O my God, I feel you in gripped fists and blazing eyes. A thousand years of humble homilies a desert kindred upthrust and by now — forgotten the forked tongue. why should we be sheep when you made us men? we used to speak with the jawbones of the wild ass, long-haired nomads, singing in roughspun wool.
I’m basically using my rusty anthropological education and sundry other learning to express exasperation regarding the Christian emphasis that we are sheep and God shepherds us. That’s an easy metaphor used by a nomadic tribe of herders to explain their theology in terms they could understand. Since sheep are considered remarkably dumb and meek, it’s also a useful way for, say, a priestly hierarchy to enforce control and adherence for a few thousand years.
We can be God’s and be men as well. He’s not the God of sheep.
and as the winged insects pour forth from hinged skull, a stretch no more than reason — the timbalous rudiments of flight on frisking wings — the staples of summered dusk — late sun shattering on nicks of stained glass — of infiltration — a stolen clasp of mind — a decanted vacuum where once built an inside city — fed upon by bandit brilliance and husked by the great abatement there appears in the sky the first swallow of many.
This is one of those flanking poems, like a sheepdog, spiraling in on a point that, in this case, remains shrouded in the metaphor. Basically the idea is that ideas are all mostly stolen. They’re pretty food, and when you all of yours get eaten by something, you can always eat someone else’s. Still not exactly right, but over-explaining doesn’t do much to sate the appetite.